If Alabama running back Derrick Henry’s second-straight 40-carry performance is even close to classified as “just another day at the office” then he is getting a well-deserved vacation from that office following the Crimson Tide’s SEC Championship win.
Passing the 40-carry mark was only one of Henry’s accomplishments on Saturday versus Florida. His 189 rushing yards signified his ninth 100-yard rushing game of the season, and on top of that Henry brought his season total to 1,986 yards on the ground, passing Hershel Walker’s previous single-season SEC rushing record of 1,891 yards set back in 1981.
Henry was once again Alabama’s workhorse, and it’s astounding how he can remain effective even when the defense knows he’s getting the ball.
So let’s relive some of Henry’s best runs from the SEC Championship game and further his case to potentially become this year’s Heisman winner.
Run No. 1: Vision of the unseen
It’s easy to write off talented running backs as simply being bigger or faster than everyone else on the field. But to be as good as Henry, it takes excellence in the little things, too.
On this run, Henry not only showed quick feet, but he proved that he has the vision to move in and around gaps while chaos is all around him. Henry was basically untouched as he moved past the line of scrimmage and that was due to his ability to see the gap before it fully formed. Some people like to dismiss his success as just a product of Alabama’s system (like Trent Richardson). But, this is a different time in Alabama football. Even though the Crimson Tide still a run-heavy team, it takes a smart running back to do what Henry is doing.
Run No. 2: From quickness to speed to power
There are three phases to this run. The first is that Henry again showed off his quick feet when reacting to the incoming defender. But what was even more impressive was the second phase and how he turned that change-of-direction step into acceleration without any wasted movement. Some running backs have a tendency to change their direction, then gather themselves and then accelerate in three separate movements. Henry didn’t need those extra few steps, and instead put it all in one motion which led to the third phase of turning that speed into power.
Once Henry gets to his top speed, he becomes much harder to bring down. As you see in the vine above, the only reason Henry was even stopped is because he ran out of room near the sideline. Watch as he treated arm tackles as nothing but paper in the wind once he had a full head of steam. If he had more space, he most likely would’ve lowered his shoulder on the last tackle and picked up more yards. Henry’s ability to transition quickness to speed to power is a rare skill set for a player of his size.
Run No. 3: Attaining perfect balance
On Henry’s final big run of the day, he put all of these previous skills together and then some. My main concern with Henry as a back has always been his balance. Early in his career, he just seemed a bit top heavy, or too reliant on his upper-body strength. But this run, and other runs like it that we’ve seen in the second half of this season, put that worry to bed for good.
From this angle the run looks even more impressive. Henry showed the quick feet to burst up the gap, the speed to get past the first-down marker before defenders could close on him, the agility to freeze the on coming tackler and even then the determination to remain upright after first contact, stay on his feet and pick up an extra five yards.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why Derrick Henry is deserving of the Heisman trophy. Too many people believe it’s Alabama’s offense that’s makes Henry. In reality, Henry is the one that makes Alabama’s offense worthy of a title run.